tv Erin Burnett Out Front CNN May 16, 2017 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT
because it's very important to the future of this country. >> gloria borger, everyone else, thanks very much. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." our live breaking news coverage continues right now. erin burnett "out front" starts. >> good evening, i'm erin burnett and we are following the breaking news. sources telling cnn that jim comey wrote a memo stating that president donald trump asked him to end the investigation into the former national security advisor general michael flynn. comey so appalled by the february 14th request that he documented the conversation in this memo. now, according to comey's themmo which was first reported by the new york times, the president said this and i'm quoting comey in the memo. i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, letting flynn go. he is a good guy. i hope you can let this go.
the white house saying the president has never asked mr. comey or anyone else to end an investigation, including any investigation involving general flynn. this is perhaps the most explosive revelation yet in president trump's short tenure. jake tapper, what are you learning about what happened in that room on february 14th between the president and jim comey? >> pamela brown and i each have spoken to sources that confirmed the existence of this memo. the source i spoke with has a copy of the memo. he's a source close to comey. he tells me that on february 14, director comey, then still the fbi director was in the oval office with president trump, vice president pence and the attorney general jeff sessions talking about an issue of national security or the law. after that meeting was over, the president asked the vice president and the attorney general to leave the room and then according to this memo, comey said, as you read, that
the president said to him, i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go, he's a good guy, i hope you can let this go. he told comey flynn had not done anything wrong. 246s the day after flynn resigned. comey kept a record of this as is characteristics for him. people who have followed comey's career for the last couple of decades that often when there is a controversy comey is somebody in the center of storm who has written a con tem rain yus account of what was going on at the time and what he was thinking and advocating during the years. this happened during the bush years when he was deputy attorney general and he did this during the nsa wiretapping and the debate on torture. this said to me, and this is important, he says he wrote a number of memos. a great many, if not all, were
about contact with trump, particularly ones that made him feel uneasy. i said to him does comey think this was obstruction of justice what president trump said to him about ending the investigation, and the source said, that's your language not mine. but he agreed with the fact that comey's impression was that the president was telling him to end the investigation. >> obviously, an incredibly significant development tonight, perhaps the biggest in the raesh investigation. thank you, jake. pamela, you with confirmed this story for us here at cnn. someone has read to you these memos and i guess the big question is as we're starting to see different parts of them, are we going to see everything that jim comey thought about the february 14th meeting and these other meetings or calls that, as jake said, make him feel uneasy? >> that's the question now. there's already read rick coming from democratic senators and congressmen saying that they
want to subpoena memos from james comey. james comey felt it was important to document some of these conversations he had with president trump. this one in particular, i'm told through my source, a person fam with the matter that he was appalled by the fact that he believed the way he perceived it was pluresident trump asking hi to end the probe into the former national security advisor, so he helps that for ethical, legal reasons, it was important to document this. he apparently shared it with close associates, with senior people in the fbi. the question remains outside of that, who knew? did the department of justice know, who at the department of justice might know? andy mccabe testified last week on capitol hill and said that there is no indication that the white house has tried to interfere in the russia investigation.
of course, the argument could be made that this is interference, the president asking him to end that probe, but it's unclear if andy mccabe even knew this memo existed. >> the answers could be some of the most important in presidential history as we look at the significance of the story. sara murray is outside the white house. the response of the trump administration, defiant? >> reporter: defientsds. they are denying this conversation ever took place. publicly, administration officials have said the president wants the russian investigation to go on. i believe he said that in an interview. privately we know that the president was stewing about the fact that all anyone could talk about was russia before he made this decision to fire 1yi78 comey. so tonight responding to the bombshell report, a trump administration official said that general flynn is a decent man, the president has never
asked mr. comey nor anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving general flynn. the president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies and all investigations. this is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversations between the president and mr. comey. i can tell you tonight that people close to the president and even some staffers are sort of accepting this with kind of a grim reality. saying they don't really know what to make of it and will wait and see. >> thank you. with us, our panel is with me. jeff, let me start with you.
i think people watching have come to say there's always something. ok? but in the context of there being something on a one and something on a ten, this is significant. >> well, this is very high, because if the report is true and if the memo that comey described accurately described what went on, that seems clearly to be obstruction of justice. this is a pending investigation in february 14th. everybody knew that the fbi was investigating michael flynn -- >> yes. >> -- for his role in the trump campaign, whether he made false statements, whether he participated in colluding with the russian government and if donald trump says to him, let it go, says to comey, let it go -- >> yeah. >> -- the only interception i can make is him telling him to shut down the investigation. i think jake tapper made an
important point about the context. there was a meeting in the oval office about national security. trump asked sessions and pence the attorney general and the vice president to leave. >> right. >> that's -- >> according to comey. >> right. that suggests consciousness of guilt. you don't want to ask for something improper in front of other people. we need to see the memos and of course the great question is are there tapes because president trump suggested there were white house tapes. that could certainly -- congress has to ask for all the underlying documentation. >> so chris, you know jim comey. does this sound like something he would do, to keep this sort of a memo and what would you say about its accuracy are from what you know of him? >> well, it's definitely something that agents do, it's something that lawyers do. i was trained on it. if you don't document it, it didn't happen. i can definitely see former
director comey documenting con tem rain yusly as possible, probably right after the meeting and it would be sound judgment to do that. i know jim comey. i've been very critical of some of his judgments, in fact, maybe a little harsh on him in terms of this firing and perhaps i suggested it was justified, but i can tell you this. there's no question about his integrity, whatsoever. that, i can tell you. i think if this is exactly what happened and it's well documented and we have these circumstances surrounding it, i would believe what's in the memo. >> gloria, politically, ok, we're 24 hours out from the report that the president shared classified information with a u.s. adversary, obviously, talking to the rugszs, one of them believed to be a top russian spy in the oval office. you told jim acosta saying of the memo, i just don't know on
this one. obviously, the president is denying it, but that's a troubling statement. >> it is. >> -- from the trump camp from their own aid. >> it is. there are other people in the white house trying to put some sort of a face on this. but look, before this story broke this evening, i was talking to somebody who's very close to a bunch of trump loyalists who spoke with numerous people inside the white house yesterday and the way this person described the people in the white house to me was disconsulate. that was the word yesterday. so -- and also, in talking to people who are close to the president before this story broke tonight, i can tell you that they describe him to me as a person who felt under siege, who didn't have kchd in anybody on his staff, and was kind of trying to think his way about what to do about it.
because, of course, this is a president who never admits that he himself has made a mistake. but if you look at the past two days, you look at somebody from the intelligence community feeling strongly enough about what went on in the oval office with the russians to talk to reporters r about it and then you look at this story today. you have people in the law enforcement community feeling strong enough about comey to talk about this, and so you can see the president saying, oh, the intelligence community and the fbi is out to get me. but, in fact, i would argue that these are people who saw something alarming and wanted to tell the story. >> so let me ask you about this. this is important. the president denies it happened. ok. no shock to anybody. in part his statement reads -- ok. that's his words. jim comey is coming out with a
memo with quotes he said he wrote right after this meeting on february 14th. he was obviously fired only a week or so ago. so what happened in between then and now? >> the claim -- >> why didn't he put the memo out right away? who did he tell? >> exactly. that's the problem you're going to have here. technically, if what he said in the memo happened, i agree with jeffrey. this is a criminal conduct which translates into an impeachble conduct. look at comey's situation. he hears the president asking him to stop an investigation. his krebltd is going to be harmed quite a bit. instead comey continues on the job. there will be a strong argument by trump supporters that trump is more believable on this than comey. >> what do you say to that?
there's this question. if he was so appalled why didn't he share them with someone? >> call a policeman into the oval office to arrest donald trump? >> couldn't he call one of these committees and tell them about it? >> i suppose he could. that is true. i think given the context, the fbi director isn't going to resign on the spot right away. >> why not? >> the president is threatening criminal activity, why not resign on the spot. >> that's a good question. >> this is a guy with a lot of integrity. that's been his reputation. he has integrity. so instead, he takes the job and continues on. he's going to get torng apart on the witness stand if there is a witness stand in this case. >> he will. but that's an example of putting the witness on trial as opposed to the defendant. yes, that is something that comey will have to answer for. >> yes. >> but what about the underlying conduct of the president of the
united states? >> if he did it, it's impeachble. but remember -- >> ok. >> -- the -- the congress has to vote to ima peach. i don't see them voting to impeach on this evidence. le. >> one reason comey might give is he wanted to finish the russia investigation, which was his job, and he didn't want it to be politicized because he thought the investigation into 2 hacking into an american election was just that important to the country that he wanted to finish that job. look. i can't speak for comey nor would i ever try to. but i would think that that might have been a more important thing that he was thinking about getting done. >> so tony, let me ask you, because i know you also have been in the situation room. you know jim comey. what do you make of the fact he would say that in a memo and perhaps now as we understand, multiple memos, multiple times
and now it's unclear whether he shared it with anyone. >> i've had calls to question his judgment, but never his word. and this has the feeling of chickens coming home to roost. a few days ago, the president was unleashing this sort of vailed thread the in mr. come s comey's -- veiled threat. turns out the president should have been concerned that there was no memo, that mr. comey was writings about their meeting. that's where we are right now. look. at the end of the day the real problem is this. the president has over a long period of time apparently an adversarial relationship with the truth. he said i think 34r6r789 comey's going to come out on top in this instance. >> mark, what do you say? >> a couple of things. one is pluns go back to impeachble offenses and what would republicans do. we have to look at this through
two lens, party loyalty and loyalty to the country at this point. up to today, so to speak, i think in a republicans are willing to let a lot of things go from the president because they thought that for the things that he did, they at least had him in office and they could get things through that they thought were necessary, ok, whether that -- you know, legislatively on big issues. however, i spoke to a republican a short time ago, someone who doesn't jump to conclusions, described this to me as a critical moment right now for republicans books republican leaders in washington and throughout the country and this republican pointed out to me, which makes a lot of sense to me, where he talked about subpoenaing and having control over oversight investigations, the road they're on right now is republicans will lose the house of representatives in 2018. the that means democrats immediately have subpoena power and they can go in and they can ask for any kind of documents they want from the administration.
what does that mean? it means that the republicans would be in a lot of trouble on retaining control of the white house in 2020. >> all of you please stay with me. when you talk about congress, obviously this is going to come down to whether it can be proved what jim comey says happened happened. if so, you're down the path of impeachment for obstruction of justice. there are growing calls for jim comey on capitol hill to come testify and tell his story. chuck schumer said this moments ago on the senate floor. >> the country is being tested in unprecedented ways. i say to all of my colleagues in the senate, history is watching. >> manu raj u is on chill tonight. what are republicans saying right now? >> well, erin, there are very few republican defenders of this president right now.
most -- senator lindsay graham suggested earlier maybe even a special prosecutor could be warranted if he feels that the president did anything inappropriately based on james comey publicly testifying. others concern that the president continues to distraktd from what the republicans are trying to do up here. i talked to mark walker, the chairman of the republican study committee, the largest conservative faction in the house. he said he's concerned, also. take a listen. >> if that's accurate -- i don't have any reason right now that it's not. i'm just hearing it from one of our staff people -- to say that we would have some concern would be accurate. that would be true, for me to act like it's not a concern would be remiss in my part. >> now, this comes, erin, as house oversight jason chaf its saying he's prepared to go after this comey memo saying this in a
tweet earlier, saying that this committee's going to get the comey memo if it exists. i need to see it sooner rather than later. i have my subpoena pen ready. so republicans and democrats want to get to the bottom of this. the question is whether or not republicans are pushed to do anything beyond the existing investigations on capitol hill, will they embrace what democrats have been calling for, a special prosecutor but at the very least concerns from conservatives and liberals alike, democrats and republicans wanting to get more information tonight, erin. >> thank you very much. back to the panel. let me can put the question to you. let's assume that they -- that comey will give over this memo and any other memos. assume that he does that. >> yes. >> assume that what's quoted is actually in that. >> right. >> i think those two things are fair. twhaen? it's a he said-he said. is that in and of yitd enough to cause obstruction of justice?
it's one man's story. >> it's not just the memo. is will -- the fact that sessions and pence were asked to leave the room, they will be asked publicly about it. you -- there are lots of cases that involve differing versions of the facts and juries are ultimately designed to make those credibility determinations. i think, you know, if one person has contemporaneous records of what went on in a conversation, that's usually pretty good evidence. this is a political situation. impeachment is more a political event than a criminal event -- >> so there is no beyond a reasonable doubt or anything that would need to be proven at this point?
>> absolutely not. they're going to make a seat of the pants is this something we want to force somebody out of office over. >> this is now leaking to news organizations. i think jim comey is ok with is that leaking. is he going to come out and come on the record himself and testify the way that they want limb to now in congress? >> yeah. i think they need to give him the forum to do so and the sooner, the better. they should do it warp speed. i generally have minimal respect for congress investigations. there's more politics than investigating going on. you don't launch right into impeachment. hold some hearings, bring jim comey if h there, let limb bring his memos, i'm getting tired of hearing secondhand information. i want to see some first-hand information. >> i agree. i think that you are absolutely right that it's not time for newspaper articles.
it's time for testimony. but you have to get underlying documents as well. are there any documents that shed light on what went on in this meeting, including the waves records, which is the records of who was going in and out of the white house on february 14th -- >> they've said they don't want to share those records. >> just let me add one point on the bind that comey is in. comey, ironically they end up being forced to be on trump's site in this scenario because he's going to have to come in and say, well, if i thought the president was asking me to obstruct justice, i would have either resigned or i would have gone to a senate committee or i would have gone to a house committee. he's in a really tough spot. for him to endorse the idea that this was in truth obstruction of justice -- >> he has decided -- >> he is complice it in the obstruction. >> gloria. >> there was enough reason for comey to memorialize this.
h didn't memorialize it because he had interest in a conversation with the president that he wanted for his memoir, i assume. i assume he did it as a matter of record because he found it worrisome and dangerous and so -- >> well, then, why not say something earlier? why wait until he's been fired? >> i think that's a completely legitimate question. i was just guestsing before that maybe it's because he felt that the russia investigation was more important. >> right. >> we'll have to wait for him to say why he didn't go to oversight or why he didn't go to the white house counsel or why -- >> right. >> -- he didn't go to the attorney general, right? i mean -- well, he might not have been confirmed at that point. i'm not quite clear on the timing. he will have to answer. he will have to aejs that question. but it's very clear to me that the reason he did this is because he found it worrisome. why else would you memorialize a
conversation with the president? >> yeah. >> -- in which he asked you to see your way through to clearing something. >> in the memo, part of the memo according to to the new york times, he said i hope you can see yourself clear to letting this go. he said he's a good guy i hope you can let this go. mr. comey did not say anything to mr. trump about curtailing the investigation. he said, i agree, he is a good guy. what do you hear when you hear that. jim comey acquiescing? is that jim comey making donald trump think he's acquiescing? he's not responding to the full comment of donald trump but he is, sort of, trying to play indicate him. >> well, i think he's trying to end the conversation on that topic and move on. ideally what he would have said is mr. president this is a
totally inappropriate conversation. the bottom line glows to what jeff was sighing earlier, which is -- if this is all true, the president was trying to put his thumb on the scale. maybe the simple truth is he felt bad about what was happening to general flynn and was trying to be a nice guy and help him out. even if that was the intent, the president of the united states interfering even for good reasons in an ongoing investigation and possible prosecution is totally inappropriate and ideally the fbi director would have told him so. >> there are questions, though, to this point, however he handled it. mark, there was the hearing on may 11th, right, when the now interim director of the fbi, mccabe was asked about marco rubio whether the white house has tried to impede the
investigation. >> has the dismissal of mr. comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted any of the work any investigation or any ongoing projects at the federal bureau of investigation? >> the work of the men and women of the fbi continues. there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. >> so mark, what does that mean? context of what we're learning now? did mccabe who was the number two at the fbi have no idea. >> well, two things. one is we don't know if mccabe had any idea in whether or not then director comey shared with him this information. if you go back and listen to that clip right there, senator rubio is saying has the dismissal of director comey negatively affected the investigation and then, of course with we saw mccabe say no, in fact, that is not the case. that is sperveg wording. le. >> yes. but he continued to say there
has been no effort to impede the investigation to date. which i took broader than the dismissal of mr. comey. >> we don't know what the relationship was between mccabe and comey and where there was discussion about what the president said to him. maybe he didn't feel comfortable enough to talk to mccabe about it. >> and one of the -- >> that might be the indication. >> yeah. >> one of the reasons why comey might not have said anything to mccabe or not people is that he wanted to protect the bureau from this kind of interference. if he doesn't tell anyone that trump is trying to end the investigation, then the investigation proceeds. one of the things that fbi directors and fbi supervisors always talk about -- it's a phrase that you hear them use often is protect the bureau. i suspect comey will say his
goal in this whole process was protect the bureau. if he didn't tell anyone that the president tried to shut down the investigation and the investigation proceeded, he had protected the bureau. >> one other thing -- there's one other thing we haven't even discussed that i think goes against the president very strongly. you remember when flynn's lawyer started saying my client has a story to tell but he needs immunity. >> yes. >> the president came out publicly and said he should seek imcan menuity. why would the president be saying that flynn should seek immunity now that the president acknowledges there was criminal exposure for flynn and he had to try to influence comey to drop the case. it's another small piece of evidence that will get put on the scale. >> on this issue of protecting the beiro, does that add up to you, that comey would see as obstruction of justice, sas nothing about it, because he was
figuring out what to do or trying to deal with the president, because he didn't want to cast a shadow or cause any fear among those in the fbi who are handling the investigation, does that add up to you? >> no, it doesn't. first of all, it's to protect the criminal justice system, not the fbi. >> right. >> the fbi is an vifing aegtd. they're supposed to get to the facts. that's the way i was trained and the way i look at it and i'm sure that's the way jim comey looked at it. he wanted it documented. that's sound practice. he never -- you never know what's going to come up later, how things are going to come up later, whether it's going to fit into a broader context. i feel like -- certainly, the language could have been stronger if he were being ordered to stop an investigation. hey, stop, i want this investigation ended, you serve at my will. there could have been stronger statements there. i believe he shared this with
andy mccabe. andy was in the inner circle. i don't know that for a fact but i believe this if this happened -- >> you think it's likely? >> i think it's highly likely i don't think andy mccabe looked at it that way, either. >> we've all been in situations where someone doesn't directly ask you to do something but you feel that's what they're asking for and if you don't you're going forward at your own risk. let me go back to jake. this issue of why did jim comey not reach out to congress earlier? why now after he's fired and you're learning more as to the answer? >> that's right. the white house has been putting out this pushback asking if this really happened, why didn't he do something able to, let other people know immediately. so i asked the soshsz close to comey about that. i'll read it to you. because it wasn't a very successful effort on the part of the president and comey thought
he had pushed back on it. living with this president is about standing up and pushing back. he thought he'd pushed back and was working to regularize communications between the bureau and the white house. he thought he was starting to succeed. and he was very sensitive tom how difficult it was going to be to work with this president. me also thought he could do it. if i could offer one bit of analysis to someone who has covered comey now for several years, he has a rather lie opinion -- and i'm not saying that in as pejorative way -- but he has a high opinion of his integri integrity. >> tony, what's your reaction to that if that's what he actually thought? i think regardless of the fact that everyone who knows him is speaking up for his sbegsity, it would seem that's not a decision for him to make.
>> look. it makes sense knowing what i know of him. that sounds right but there are many reasons he may have held back. i think certainly, the argument that i'm trying to make this work and i'm trying to get this white house to act in a normal fashion and i'm trying to get the president to act within the bounds of propriety and thinking maybe he was succeeding in that, that certainly could be. gloria also made the point earlier that this may have been something he was wrapping into his larger investigation, another element that would need to come out when he concluded that investigation. there are many possible interpretations. the bigger picture is this. all of these self-inflicted wounds by the president are taking us away from the business of the country. imagine, we're spending all this time on a self-inflicted wound. when we get an outside crisis -- >> yeah.
>> -- it's hard to imagine a how the president is going to deal with. everything is so corrosive of his credibility and of the administration's credibility, that's your most valuable asset and they're losing it. >> one more point comes back to a point we made with earlier. ok. if you can get the memos from comey, that's important. but the ultimate arbiter would be tapes. the president put it in quotes. we know there are many who have attested to the fact that he has often recorded -- always recorded conversations when in the trump tower. will we ever know if there were tapes? >> absolutely. this is a fact in the world whether there are tapes. no one operates in isolation, especially in the white house. even the president of the united states. there are -- >> you would not say there would be a rush to get rid of that evidence? >> look, i recognize there are a lot of reasons to be suspicious of donald trump at this point. i don't see him destroying
evidence. i've never seen him destroy evidence. if the tapes exist, there is certainly a taping system where foreign leaders are taped. that's been done as a matter of course for years. >> right. >> the question of whether he is tamgs domestic, political, national security meetings with his own staff, that's the real question. >> yeah. >> and we don't know. >> the taping system with trump. you might be talking about a small digital recorder in his pocket, which wouldn't be examinable by white house personnel. that's what i'd like to know. did he carry one around and use it occasionally? this is why i think in the end you really need a special prosecutor in this case to pursue all of these details. where are the tapes, do they exist? we need subpoena power. you need a lot more power to investigate this. >> where is the bottom line on where they are on the tapes and whether they can get them. i know they've been called for if they exist but that's it.
>> we know that jason shave its is saying -- chaf its, they're reluctant to ask about the tapes at this point. i think there's going to be an incredible amount of pressure put on republicans in congress who have that oversight, who have the ability to subpoena to get those and listen to them if not publicly, certainly been closed doors. >> i want to bring in the democr democratic congressman from texas. you were just briefed by the cia director about the latest on what the president may have told ambassador kissly ak and formal minister lavrov. i want to start with this breaking news right now and the memo that jim comey says he has. what's your response to this? the white house says it didn't happen. jim comey says it did.
>> first of all, it's deeply troubling. if the reports are true, then the american public really demands that -- we've had enough talk. we need to take action. i would say that we should give james comey 72 hours to produce these memos of the fbi, 72 hours to produce the memos, if not, they should be subpoenaed. we should give the white house 72 hours to produce the tapes if they exist. if they're not released, they should be subpoenaed. >> wear hearing republicans agree with you on the memo. perhaps not so much on the tapes. >> i think that all of this is still being sorted out. remember, the house of representatives, unlike the senate, was not in session last weeng. this is our first day back. but now that we're back in session, we need to take action. >> when the president fired comey, you said, congressman, that it would be an impeachble act if he fired comey to effect
the russian investigation, if he did so for that motive. >> absolutely. >> what we're hearing now about give flynn a break, stop looking at flynn, does that meet your bar for impeachment proceeding? >> we have to make sure it's true. this is a deliberative body. this country's only gone down is that road twice. but if it is true, yes, that is an impeachble offense. >> i knowoff lot of discretion in congress, if it's true it has a lot of latitude. it's not beyond a reasonable doubt. they may say exactly what is being reported that they say. it is still jim comey's word against donald trumps. >> a few things. first of all, memos made by fik agents and officers are routinely admissible in court. >> yeah. >> remember, and again i don't
want to get ahead of myself. it's got to be a deliberative process, but as a matter of fact, the impeachment process is a debate. there is a debate over that. that is when you would get into the back and forth perhaps of what's true and what's not. >> you also were, i believe in the past few moments, you finished your briefing by the cia director mike pompeo. there were a lot of questions about what the president told the russian ambassador and foreign policy. one is with believed to be a top spy and spy recruiter for russia. what did you learn from director pompeo? >> i can't divulge directly what the director said but needless to say, everybody in that room, it was my sense, was very troubled by the president's behavior, that he seemed to confirm on twitter and basically giving up this highly classified information that has the potential to basically endanger
lives of our allies and also endanger our national security. >> came out today, last night obviously with a statement -- i think he realized he should have done more and he did today. he calls this a wholly appropriate conversation. after the briefing you had with the cia director, do you still doubt mcmaster or do you think it's possible that the conversation was appropriate? >> well, if by "appropriate," he means legal, then yes, the president has the -- >> yeah. >> -- broad ability to declassify information and share information. that doesn't mean it wasn't reckless. it was very reckless to share that information with the russians. first of all, to have them in the oval office after interfering with our democratic process but then to share such highly confident information that may have come from allies, that was completely reckless and
that makes me wonder if he's done it before. >> do you think the president had any idea he was sharing top secret information that had not been agreed to be shared by the third party at this time or did the president know that and do it anyway? >> i think that's a good question. quite honestly, it's hard nor me to discern that. my ijcally nation is to say that perhaps he didn't know what he was doing, but either way, the damage was done. >> jim rich, your colleague, he says the traitor is not trump for sharing class fight information with an adversary. he says it was the person who told the washington post about it. here 4es. >> it was not the president of the united states that caused this. it was some trait over who's in the chain of command below the president who actually disclosed this. >> what is your response to that? the traitor is the person who
leaked to the newspapers, not the president who shared the information with the russians? >> i strongly disagree. the problem is the president sharing this very classified information with russian officials and also the senator's words speak to a real problem around here which is that people keep putting party above country and that at some point this body and the senate will going to put country before party and it feels like perhaps we're turning a corner wheres that's actually going to happen. >> all right, thank you. i appreciate your time tonight. >> thank you. >> sobering b developments are coming just hours -- we're just days barely to go before the president goes on his first overseas trip. it is a significant trip to zaush, israel, g7, to the vatican. i want to go to jim sciutto. jim, the tiemgt on this up
incredibly troubling. >> no question. listen, the first presidential trip -- these trips with ones used to base runnerish the image of a new president, to show him or her being presidential. the context will be h sadly very different as you have certainly democrats and now some republicans calling for a further deeper investigation into the president's behavior here, including the phrase "obstruction of justice" being raised. saudi arabia, key ally in the war on terror. israel, key ally on the war against isis and we know now that it was israel that supplied the sensitive information that the president shared with russia. and of course russia is the number one topic of conversation for nato. that's going to be the main really topic of conversation as he goes to brussels to meet with nato members there. so not only is the talk here different than what the president wants for his first
presidential trip, but these issues going on here challenging his very presidency are ones that are very germane, in fact, central to the nay toe allies, saudi arabia, etc. we know that the white house, as well -- i would mention finally, wanted this trip to help change the narrative from the many previous controversies we were reporting on days ago. that's not going to be possible. >> our panel is back with us. two people join us. let me ask you, jason, do you think the president has tapes that could prove that his side of the story, right? he says jim comey is lying, right? essentially he's saying that what jim comey said, he's lying.
>> all i know is the public reports. but to go right at the heart of this comey matter, i think it is absolutely absurd to think that the president supposedly made such a comment or request to director comey and director comey sat on it for three months and after getting fired magically reaches into his jacket and pulls out some memo he wrote at the time. that is absolutely absurd. he would have had the obligation to step forward and make that known. i think there's something a little bit weird and vindictive on director comey's part, there's this little diary or figuratively speaking a die write where he can come back and play goc ya games later on, it doesn't make sense. >> jason's making the case that the trump defenders are going to make.
jim comey is saying that he thought that he didn't say anything because the president had pushed at him. he didn't think the president was successful at making it stop. he thought that living with this president was standing up and pushing back. he thought he could do so and protect the integrity of the investigation. does that add upped to you as an explanation for him not telling congress, telling anyone what the president supposedly did? >> it does add 7-to me, erin. it would be good to hear directly from mr. comey in his own words what he was thinking. again, we're looking at what he did or didn't do in this instance. and again maybe ideally he would have come out with this right away. but the hard truth is this. time and again, going back a long period of time, the president has represented that the relationship is adversarial. now there's a question of
correct and it may be a he said-he said question that comes up. whether it's saying president obama wasn't born in the united states, whether it's saying he founded isis, whether it was the crowds at his inaugural, whether it's so many other things in between, time and time again he seemed to be divorced from reality and what he says. that means that his krebltd is undermined. that's not good for the country. again, you mentioned -- we're headsing often on this foreign trip. there's a lot of foreign business to be done and unfortunately this is going to be a dead weight around that trip. >> 24 hours of course the massive story that the president shared class fight information with the russians that had not been authorized to be shared. not illegal. he can do it. but programs unethical or inappropriate. now you have this story 24 hours later. can he just ride it out and ench
moves on to the foreign trip? >> i don't think so. look. he's been able to continue forward despite all these fofrsed errors on his part quite frankly in his first few months of his administration. what we saw yesterday with the allegations of leaking out information in a very carolinel manner was stupid. the the allegations today could potentially be criminal. that in itself rises to an entirely new level. i think we need to take a step back and look at how people are looking at us right now. vuntd in russia affected our elections last year. they toyed with our elections last year. they try to break into our political system last year. this year they're now affectsing the operation of our government and the big winner in all that -- and i said this to you last week on your program -- is vount. he is sitting back in russia
laughing and we should have had the foreign minister and the ambassador to russia were in the oval office last week. why did that happen? it's amazing to me that the president allowed that to happen. >> can i ask you a question -- >> erin, can i -- >> holds on. i want to get in this one point. dan, we've reported it was 21 or 23 times that ambassador sergei kisly kislyak visited the oval office? was he ever in the oval office? how unprecedented was that? >> i don't know if he was in the oval office. i wasn't in those meetings. it's a different situation where the russians goltd themselves involved in the elections. they did it to have donald trump get in. then to have him come in and leak information, there is ranking inkpe tension at all levels here. sometimes it's -- it calls for a
lot of twitter activity. some of this has real consequences. it affects intelligence operations that are being used to protect the country. that's very dangerous. that's where this gets very serious. 24s what democrats worried about putting someone like in donald trump into office and we're seeing that come to roost here. >> jason? >> if you go back to the campaign, the president must have said dozens of times that he was going to try to enlist russia's hem in this war on isis. the only crime that we know that absolutely happened is the fact that somebody illegally shared the details of president trump's conversation with a foreign leader to the washington post and that's a very serious offense. >> what's your response to that, tony? would you agree at least technically right now? obviously we know there's other crimes that might have happened but what would you say? >> first, i don't think i'd want
to go back to the campaign. we've seen over the last 24 hours repeated montages of the president going after hillary clinton for not respecting sbhejs and confidential information. >> calling her unfit -- >> pales in comparison to what happened. p giving this information to the russians as dan just said, in so many different ways undermines our security. we're depending on other countries to trust us, to have confidence in us to and what's ironic, is, sometimes when it's something incredibly important, but incredibly classified, you'll say to the other country, we'll only share it with our president. and that's not going to be something that inspires confidence. >> do you think there will be a chilling affect for people who are putting their lines on the
line sharing information with the u.s. and israel is the third party, the prime minister of israel, benjamin netanyahu, coming out, it turned out that israel is the country that could perhaps be put in jeopardy. >> these relationships are built on trust and many of these were wired after 9/11 in a way that had never been done before. israelis are great partners in the intelligence wrarea. but let me just say, it's an inadvertent disclosure with high level officials is different from disclosing to the entire planet. if anybody put anybody in jeopardy, it was the leaker, and it's really disgusting to see someone at a high level inside a law enforcement or intelligence agency putting their own perm agenda ahead of the safety of the source and the good of the country. and, look, if president trump made a mistake, he made a
mistake. this has happened before, believe me, inadvertent disclosures, but not a deliberate leak to a national media outlet, so the whole world and isis can sit in their armchairs and read about it in the newspaper. >> the argument here that is made, and, look, leaking is criminal, but leaking is what happens, it happens to democrats, it happens to republicans. it is the only reason that watergate was even able to be expose was leaking. so everyone who wants to come out and say it's horrible, it's been very important in american history. is in a process for that? >> this was the president being extremely irresponsible in the handling of this intelligence by leaking it himself to the russians, without having had a discussion with his national security staff, to make sure that this was a good idea, it strikes me as an off the cuff
decision that he made, kind of showing off about how much intelligence the u.s. had, without really stepping back and being aware of the consequences of that act. that's the most disturbing aspect of that. and yes, somebody in the intelligence community was so upset about this, that they leaked it. and that is a crime and that is something that should be investigated. but on the other hand, i think the president has some questions to answer too about being cavalier and utterly irresponsible and immature in the handling of classified material. >> john, let me just start with you. with the newest information that we have tonight, which is the memos that jim comey apparently kept, because he was appalled that that is the word that we're using from our reporting at things that donald trump said in meetings and phone calls with the fbi director, including asking him to let this go, when
it comes to the investigation into general flynn, apparently that memo from february 14. if this happened, john, does this mean the legal of obstruction of justice which is of course is the impeachable offense. >> you have two levels of obstruction, you've got the legal level which he cannot be charged with as president. or the impeachable level of obstruction. there is an obstruction here, without getting into the weeds of technical legal issues, not always is it an an obstruction to interfere with an fbi investigation. but there's no question, it could be impeachable, indeed nixon was impeached for just this such act.
>> ambassador woolsey, we're learning now that these memos, i think it's fair to say extensive. the fbi director james comey documented everything he could remember, and he did so because you realize something momentous has happened and memories fade and he wanted to memorialize it at the earliest time. comey included a description what trump said to him about crowd size at the inauguration, which we all remember was something the president claimed which was not true. ambassador, when you take the base memo that we have right now, that comey says trump asked him to end the investigation into general flynn, donald trump and the white house denying that happened, who do you believe? >> the important thing is to get straight what type of investigation is going on. there are really two kinds that
the fishbi runs, there's crimin investigations, which is what everybody thinks of with grand juries and prosecutors and so forth. and then there's intelligence collection, the fbi collects information about counter intelligence in the u.s., the cia collects it overseas. but it's not a criminal procedure, it's not part of the criminal justice system. you can't have a system whereby you treat it as if it were criminal. that's wrong and a violation of the law, so if you want to have a criminal investigation, you have to start something else, and you have one. but this is a situation where almost everybody is talking about the investigation that's taking place, as if it's a criminal investigation. to the best of my knowledge, it's not, it's a counter intelligence investigation. >> john, i want to share with you a little bit more of the reporting we're getting, pamela brown who has seen the memos and
knows comey's thinking as to why he kept these extensive memos and the source tells her, quote, there is no need to document conversations with people who are truthful or situations that are routine, it's when you have situations that are not routine, and people who are not truthful, you would write a memo to file. there's other occasions he has done this, but not every day. >> it sounds like it's his past practice, we know he did this during the bush years, and it's not surprising, that is a good rationale for someone who sees something exceptional, they make a note or they send a contemporaneous document -- i actually tweeted that i thought they would come up a couple of days ago. >> so ambassador, what is the bottom line, how damaging will it be when the former fbi
director testifies, because he believes he will be subpoenaed. these documents will be subpoenaed. he wants to testify. or tell his story, he wants to come out and tell it. so we're going to hear it. it is going to be he said/she said, ambassador. >> talk about testifying in a criminal proceeding, then somebody has to start one up. they haven't done that as far as i can tell. they don't have one going. the situation today, it's as if a bunch of kids on a playground, somebody catches the ball and then drops it and somebody else says, hey, you're out, infield fly rule, and the guy who drops it, what do you mean? we're playing football. they're assessing the wrong kind of proceeding in talking about obstruction of justice and the rest. and that is something that we need to get clear. is there any kind of violation of law that we have seen in
people's behavior in the counter intelligence investigation, not that i know of. >> i think that we're not clear about. i think the thing that we're not clear about at this point is whether a grand jury has actually been convened and there may in fact be an investigation being conducted by a grand jury of contacts with the russians and it may in fact involve general flynn and when you look at a possible obstruction charge here, comey's going to come in and say, you know, the reason i didn't act and do something about this was because it was an a attempt to make something of it at the time. however something did come of it, however comey was fired to try to stop the investigation from going forward. people who are going to come in against the president, that was the act that turned a possible
obstruction into a real obstruction of justice. our breaking news coverage is going to continue, i want everyone to know, we have a special town hall tonight, "white house in crisis" governor better thannie sanders and ohio governor john kasich. our continuing coverage with "a.c. 360." former acting attorney general sally yates is speaking out for the first time, her only television interview where she talks about james comey and the russian investigation. the fired fbi director james comey and the memo our sources say he wrote. president trump threatened comey with tapes, now comey is threatening with notes, stateme. sources tell us a memo that was penned in